New Jersey School Boards Association Counsel John Burns testified before the State Board of Education recently about a New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) proposal concerning charter schools, bringing forward concerns about different levels of accountability for charter schools and local districts.
Burns also addressed a proposed provision to permit charter school students to participate in extracurriculars at the local district of residence, when the charter does not offer a particular extracurricular activity. In his testimony, Burns urged the State Board to bring greater clarity to its proposal. As written, the provision could lead to additional expense for district boards of education that would be required to permit charter school students to participate in local district extracurriculars. Burns suggested that such activities should be left to the voluntary agreement between charter schools and local districts, preserving local control. A copy of the full testimony addressing all of NJSBA’s concerns on the charter school proposal can be found here.
At its meeting, the State Board also considered the following items:
- Collaborative between the Juvenile Justice Commission and the Department of Education – The purpose of this partnership is to reduce the number of students who are referred to the juvenile justice system, and to improve the transition back to the district of residence for those students who were previously the responsibility of the justice system. Some of the activities that the agencies collaborated on included: the gathering of data, presentations on alternative disciplinary measures, and ways to ease the re-enrollment of students back into the district of residence.
- Update on Newark Public Schools – The State Board heard from Superintendent Chris Cerf on the progress in the district. Cerf reported that the graduation rate in the Newark district continues to improve, with approximately 73 percent of students graduating in 2015-2016. The PARCC scores of the district continue to improve and the district continues to make gains in student growth. The district continues to make progress on its many other challenges including personnel and facilities.
- PARCC update – The NJDOE gave a report to the State Board on the PARCC results from the spring 2016 administration of the test. Overall, the results show improvement since the 2015 administration of the test. The NJDOE reported that the achievement gap persists in both language arts/literacy and math for students who are economically disadvantaged. The full summary of the state’s results can be found here.
- The State Board’s proposals concerning the fiscal accountability and budgeting procedures for districts continue to move through the regulatory process. The first proposal is one that would make a series of technical amendments to the regulations based, in part, on changes to statute. The second proposal would make amendments to the chapter on how private schools with disabilities operate, including setting the rules for annual tuition rates for private schools for students with disabilities by containing administrative costs, salary increases, costs associated with the use/lease or purchase of vehicles, travel, and the provision of meals to students. Moreover, many of the proposed amendments will help ensure appropriate accounting and use of funds. The NJDOE anticipates the proposed amendments will result in cost containment, thereby reducing the financial burden placed upon sending school districts.
- School Choice – The NJDOE’s proposal to reauthorize the regulations governing the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program continue to move forward. The choice program was originally established by the State Board of Education in October 1999 as a five-year pilot. The Interdistrict Public School Choice Act was amended in 2010 to expand the program to additional school districts. The choice program has been in operation for six years in its expanded form and has experienced tremendous growth in the number of participating school districts and student enrollments. Currently, there are 129 operating choice districts, comprised of 5,235 choice students.
- Student Residency—The NJDOE’s proposal concerning student residency continued through the regulatory process. The rules include language that permits certain children of military members to remain in their school district of residence when their parent or guardian is ordered into active duty. This language is required as a result of a recent change in statute.
To comment on any of the State Board regulations or to see the full text of proposed changes, please go to the state DOE website. For any questions regarding State Board meetings or the regulatory process, contact John J. Burns, Esq., NJSBA Governmental Relations Department, or call (609) 278-5275.